Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Other Books On The Apocalypse

AP: I have a book that was published back in 2007 that you might be interested in. The title is Los Apocalipsis: 45 textos Apocalípticos Apócrifos Judíos, Cristianos y Gnósticos (published by EDAF). Translated the title would be The Revelations: 45 Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic Apocryphal Apocalyptic Texts. The title isn't wrong though, I assure you. I'm sure you noticed how I used the plural los not el (in Spanish) and Revelations not Revelation (in English). These other texts were written over a period of 600 years. My friend Fernando Bermejo was kind enough to write a review of the book when it was published. I've gone through and put his words in English so that you can get a feel of what the book is about. By the way, you can find a number of Fernando's publications at his Academia.edu page (see here). Here is what he wrote about the book:
The hallmark of this new book edited by Antonio Piñero is how he has assembled and made readily available a number of apocalyptic texts from different eras and cultural provenances.
These writings are of great interest for various reasons. On the one hand, the panoply of texts included in this comprehensive anthology allows a better understanding of the hopes and eschatological representations of Judaism and religious world of Late Antiquity. In addition, it helps to understand the apocalyptic matrix of various christianities, in which several of the texts reproduced have exerted considerable influence.
But interest in these texts does not end there. In some of them (Revelation of John, Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah) literary justification of beliefs in the millennium (the belief that the righteous, before moving to the final paradise, must joyously live a thousand years on this earth, surrounded by all kinds of goods and fortunes) played a very important role in the expectations of some of the most important Christian thinkers of the early church, such as Justin, Melito, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others, and then declared some movements heretical; as is known, these beliefs in the millennium would persist into Late Antiquity––for example in Apollinaris of Laodicea in the fourth century, especially in the frequent "chiliastic" outbreaks of the late Middle Ages and Modern Age.
In addition, some of the selected writings, as in the case of the Hebrew Apocalypse of Enoch, contain ideas and developments that are connected to the speculations of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah.
The book edited by A. Piñero also deserves our attention because interest in the apocalyptic is not restricted to Jewish and Christian traditions. For example, Manichaeism (born in Mesopotamia in third century, but survived in China at least until the sixteenth century) was also influenced by Jewish and Christian apocalyptic tradition. For example, in the Cologne Mani-Codex (found in 1970) is a long digression citing various fragments of 5 apocalyptic texts (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Shem, and Enoch). 
The reader should note that, despite having been included under the category of "Jewish Apocalypse," some of the selected texts (e.g., the Book of the Prophet Ezra ) are actually Christian texts, or Jewish texts that were significantly manipulated by Christians. Comments on the "twelve tribes" in the publisher's general introduction should also be taken cum mica salis since, as several studies have shown, the notion of the twelve tribes seems more a theological construct than that of a historical reality.
In any case, we can only congratulate the success of this new initiative by A. Piñero and EDAF. The book cover showing a ominous skyline over a modern city expresses very accurately how such texts, with their powerful imagery, continue to feed the fears, dreams, and hopes of humans, and even a non-negligible number of our contemporaries.
You can see a sample of the book over at Google books (in Spanish, of course). Just click here. But I wanted to alert you to it, in case you are interested in seeing for yourselves what these texts are all about.

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